Aaron Goldman is the author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google and Chief Marketing Officer at Kenshoo, a global technology platform for search marketing and online advertising. He has worked with companies such as Omnicom, Adify, Google and Microsoft. Based on his book, I asked him to provide insights about how small business owners can apply the lessons of Google and social media to their businesses.
Q: What lessons can a small business learn from Google?
A: Maybe the most important one is, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Google is super easy to use and super easy to tell others how and when to use it. Is your business and value proposition that clear? You can try this exercise: Use Google AdWords to simplify and clarify your message. This means you have to describe your company and unique selling proposition in less than ninety-five characters. Run a few versions as live ads on Google and see what gets the best response.
Q: What’s something that Google does that small business should not try to emulate?
A: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Focus on one thing and do it well. For a while that’s what Google did with search, but then it got greedy and tried to “eliminate friction” in other marketplaces. Google failed in radio and print. And the jury’s still out on TV. But it’s done well with display and mobile because they share many of the same attributes as search—namely digital delivery. So stick with what you know.
Q: What are the implications for a small business that Google, with its infinite money, brainpower and brand, is still primarily a search business despite its many forays into other markets?
A: Any small business would love to have the “problems” that Google has trying to diversify its $25 billion+ business. So I’d flip the question and remind everyone that Google was once a small business too.
Q: How can a small business optimize the benefits it receives from Google?
A: Google is on a mission to digitize and index the entire world, from websites to books to products. Why? The more stuff that’s digital, the more stuff that’s searchable. And the more stuff that’s searchable, the more ads that can be delivered. Small businesses must find ways to digitize themselves so that they can be indexed by Google and found by customers. Scan old images, create videos, etc.
Q: Should a small business hire an “SEO expert” to help with Google search results?
A: I know it’s a cop-out but the right answer is, “It depends.” Every business is different. Every category is different. What I can say with certainty is every small business should have an SEO strategy. Whether or not that means tapping an outside expert just depends on goals, budgets, etc.
Q: If you were running a small business, would you advertise in local printed papers?
A: You’re going to kill me but again, it depends. If your customers and prospects read local print, then it might be a good place to reach people. But don’t expect the same results from print as you would from Google search. The mindset of people “leaning back” and reading the paper is much different from people “leaning forward” and searching.
Q: How about the Yellow Pages?
A: Ditto. If your audience skews older and less tech-savvy, then yellow pages have a place on your marketing plan. But even the old folks are using Google these days. I can’t think of a single business that should not be advertising on Google.
Q: How can a small business track and test its Google efforts?
A: Google has a number of free tools available. Google Analytics is great for measuring performance. You can see what visitors do once they get to your website after clicking on your ad.
Q: What would you do if you were Rupert Murdoch?
A: First, stop whining about Google profiting from my content. Second, focus on creating more profitable content.
Q: If you were a small business, how much effort would you allocate to location-based services such as FourSquare, Gowalla and Loopt?
Q: What are the most common simple fixes that website owners should perform in order to increase the effectiveness of their websites?
A: Focus on what you do really well. Choose a niche and become the authority on it. Create and curate all kinds of content laser-focused on your niche. Become the best destination on the web for your particular product or service area. Give people a reason to tell others about your website and update it regularly. Your visitors will reward you—as will Google.
Any company as successful of Google provides lessons for entrepreneurs. The lessons aren’t necessarily simple extrapolations, but, as Goldman said, Google was once a small company too.